PTSD In Dogs

Summary: “Can dogs have PTSD?” Unfortunately, PTSD in dogs is possible. In this blog, we’ll learn how to tell if you have a dog with PTSD and how to help them recover…    PTSD – or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – is a psychological condition that can impact those who have experienced and survived trauma.   […]

Nov 28, 2023·5 min read
PTSD In Dogs

Summary: “Can dogs have PTSD?” Unfortunately, PTSD in dogs is possible. In this blog, we’ll learn how to tell if you have a dog with PTSD and how to help them recover 


PTSD – or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – is a psychological condition that can impact those who have experienced and survived trauma.  

This might be war, assault, abuse, a fire, a natural disaster, or any event that caused intense stress. But did you know that PTSD in dogs is possible?  

Can Dogs Have PTSD? 

Yes, although it’s only been recognized in dogs officially in the past decade. It’s thought that 5-17% of our furry friends are affected by canine PTSD.  

For dogs, stressful events that can bring on PTSD include: 

  • Dog fighting (whether they were used as bait or participated in fights) 
  • Severe abuse 
  • Not being cared for properly as a puppy (perhaps they were born in a puppy mill) 
  • Surviving a traumatic event (perhaps a house fire or a car crash) 
  • Working a traumatic event (perhaps they are a working dog that attends natural disasters or stressful crime scenes) 
  • Receiving intense medical treatment 
  • Being attacked by another dog 
Four police officers stand on the street outside a black café with gold lettering in Paris, France with their muzzled, working German Shepherds.



If you think you may own or know a dog with PTSD, the signs of the condition in canines include: 

  • Intense abandonment discomfort (they become incredibly distressed when left alone) 
  • Being timid 
  • Aggressive behavior 
  • Disturbed sleep pattern 
  • They react intensely to a certain place or person 
  • Excessive panting 
  • Disinterest in food or treats 
  • Disinterest in play or normal activities 
  • They seem depressed/not themselves 

If they’re a working dog (for example, military, police, or security), they may appear to “shut down”, they may refuse to work or they may seem hyper-vigilant.  

How To Help A Dog With PTSD 

When it comes to trying to support and better PTSD in dogs, the methods are not unlike what you’d use to treat a human’s PTSD.  


If the canine PTSD is incredibly severe, any other intervention may seem futile and impossible without first calming the dog down via anti-anxiety medication. This will not cure the dog of PTSD, but may give them some respite from the physical symptoms of the condition. While they are on medication, they will be introduced to a behavioral program (often a program of desensitization), and then gradually weaned off the medication when their behavior starts to improve.

A black and tan Doberman stands over a cream, roof terrace balcony, barking as if protecting the property against brilliant blue sky. Dogs that work in security can develop canine PTSD.


You or an ethical, trained animal behaviorist, at the advice of a vet, may engage with a process of desensitization. Firstly, you need to work out what the trigger is. 

For example, if it’s the sound of gunshot, you may play the noise at a very low volume level. If they tolerate it well, you’d reward them for not reacting to it with a treat. Then, over a period of days and weeks, you’d gradually increase the volume of the gunshot, continuously rewarding your dog’s tolerance. 

Desensitization would not be appropriate in cases of animals that have been severely abused and you should work with your vet or a reputable animal behaviorist in these cases.  

Having Fun 

Building trust up in your dog and making their life enjoyable as much as possible can massively improve the behavior of dogs with PTSD. Engage them in lots of play, praise, and fuss, and make sure they’re receiving a healthy, nutritious diet as well as a good amount of breed-appropriate daily exercise.  

If you’re unsure how much exercise your dog and their breed typically needs, you can refer to our guide below or chat with your vet:

a red, white and blue infographic detailing how much exercise a dog needs dependent on their breed and size

Small bursts of positive reinforcement training can also be a rewarding, fun experience for a dog with PTSD. It can help enhance your bond and their trust around people and places as well as provide essential mental stimulation. You can try trick training or nose work and see if this helps your dog with PTSD. 

PTSD In Dogs 

It’s important to remember that a dog with PTSD may never be cured, but their life experience and behavior can be improved with ample patience, support, and love from an owner or family that’s willing, kind, and able. 

If you’ve rescued a dog, their triggers may not be obvious until they’ve become more settled and trusting of you in their new environment. So, it’s worth being aware of that before bringing home your rescue pup.


Author Taffer, Marissa “Can Dogs Experience PTSD?” Dog-Eared by My Ollie, Nov 03. 2021  

“Dogs & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” American Kennel Club, Mar 23. 2013  

Sarah MiltonS

Sarah Milton

Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!

Related posts


Join Our Mailing List For Pupdates & Access To Special Discounts!


Pay Securely With

Visa card
American Express card
Disover card
Google pay
Apple pay

© 2024 PetLab Co.

The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
*In Amazon Pet Health Category in 2022
Back to top button